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A software patent has been defined by the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) as being a " patent on any performance of a computer realised by means of a computer program ". [ 1 ] Most countries place some limits on the patenting of invention involving software, but there is no legal definition of a software patent. For example, U.S. patent law excludes "abstract ideas", and this has been used to refuse some patents involving software. In Europe, "computer programs as such" are excluded from patentability and European Patent Office policy is consequently that a program for a computer is not patentable if it does not have the potential to cause a "further technical effect" beyond the inherent technical interactions between hardware and software. [ 2 ]
During my tech days, I co-authored four software patents . Each cost my startup about $15,000—which seemed like a fortune in those days. I didn’t really expect these to give me any advantage; after all if my competitors had half a brain, they would simply learn all they could from my patent filing and do things better. But I needed to raise financing, and VCs wouldn’t give me the time of day unless I could tell a convincing story about how we, alone, owned the intellectual property for our secret sauce.
Executive summary: BitLaw and the rest of the Interent contains a great deal of information on the patenting of computer software. This topical index provides one-stop shopping for learning about software patents.